‘What the heck is that word?’ These 5 resources can help

You’ve got a concept in mind, and you know there’s a very specific term to convey it, but it’s on the other side of a mental barrier. Do not despair. Tap into these repositories.

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You’re trying to think of a word, but it stubbornly refuses to materialize.

Oh, well. You’ll think of it—when it’s too late. What do you do in the meantime?

Plenty of books and websites are available to bridge the gap between your brain and the word it seeks. (Bowing to the convenience of the Web, however, few new word-finder books have been published in some time.)

Here are summaries of five of these resources.

1. Bernstein’s Reverse Dictionary

This book by language maven Theodore M. Bernstein has not been updated in nearly 40 years, so unless you find a copy at a used-book store (online or on a street), you’ll have to search the Web for a site that enables you to download it for free. (Registration may be required.)

You might find the effort worthwhile. Bernstein’s book, which was revised and expanded in 1988 by David Grambs, editor of the second edition of the Random House Unabridged Dictionary three decades after the reverse dictionary’s original publication, is alphabetized by the keyword of a definition for the word you’re looking for—and keywords are cross-referenced.

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